Interview: Bob Mould – ‘Jason and Jon are the best guys I’ve ever played with... with the three of us, the chemistry is really special’
Musician discusses friendship with Dave Grohl, his favourite new bands and why there'll be no Hüsker Dü comeback
If Dave Grohl is the Nicest Dude in Rock™ then Bob Mould might just be the second nicest. Over Skype from his home in San Francisco – his press trip to New York having been cancelled last-minute because of the mega-storm that buried large parts of the American East Coast in snow – the former singer/guitarist with seminal Minnesota punk band Hüsker Dü and prolific solo artist is as affable as interviewees come, as he waxes lyrical on subjects from toning up to go on tour to the 80s DIY rock scene and his personal passion pro-wrestling (Mould was a writer for WCW for a short time back in the late 90s).
The Hüsker düde hits the road throughout the UK over the next few weeks in support of his latest solo album Patch The Sky, his third record in more or less three years, and the latest in a burst of creativity powered by some heavy personal circumstances and a lot of attendant soul-searching. He’s been through some testing experiences in his lifetime – be it kicking drink and hard drugs, coming out as gay in the early 90s or more recently losing both of his parents in the space of a few short months. But he’s full of positivity, and full of praise for everyone from younger artists such as Toro Y Moi and Tame Impala to bandmates past and present. And, yes, his friend and sometimes collaborater Dave Grohl – about whom he confirms all those nice guy rumours we keep hearing.
How do you find touring these days? Do you get better at it as you grow older and wiser?
These days I’m a lot smarter, and the key of it is to work smarter instead of harder, especially at my age. This’ll be a really fun trip. It’s three on, a day off, two on a day off and two on again. That’s just about right for me these days. I can’t go seven days a week anymore – my voice can’t take it. These are some pretty tight rooms we’re going into. Everybody’s in real good shape. I’ve been upping the cardio and trying to shake some extra pounds, get ready because as I get older I have to.
Patch The Sky is your third solo album in three years. You’re on a roll at the moment – what’s your muse?
I suppose if I go back about five years to publishing my autobiography See A Little Light, I think letting people get a closer look at me as a person, my family, my relationships and previous bands, sharing deeper specific personal thoughts than songs might convey, it was nice to share all that with people. And I think a lot of the work I was doing with Foo Fighters [Mould features on the Foos’ 2011 album Wasting Light and has appeared with them live], with Dave Grohl, you know, he was very generous to share a little bit of the spotlight with me and that was super-cool. But having a really great band right now is probably the main thing. Me and Jason Narducy [bass, also a member of Superchunk] and Jon Wurster [drums, also a member of Superchunk and the Mountain Goats] we’ve been playing together for years now and I think with Silver Age, which came out a little over three years ago, things just started clicking. Jason and Jon are the best guys I’ve ever played with. No knock on Hüsker of course, but with the three of us, the chemistry is really special.
Has working with Foo Fighters brought about an appreciable spike of new interest in your music?
Yeah definitely. Dave shining that light on the early work with Hüskers and my ongoing work definitely has an effect. It was a great thing, it was really, really nice. Somebody like Dave champions the cause in general, whether it’s through things like Sonic Highways [Grohl’s HBO rockumentary series] or whether it’s an artist like myself of Cheap Trick or Gary Clark Jnr. That rub is real valuable to us. Dave could have gone out and taken all of that wonderful success and done something really weird with it. But he’s such a fucking huge fan of music and it shows. Whether you like the Foos or not, you’ve got to have a lot of respect for somebody who has such a deep value and tradition. He’s a great guy, he’s a treasure. Everything you see is exactly as it seems, there’s no bullshit, not one stitch of it.
Which newer bands and artists are you into at the moment?
Courtney Barnett’s good. The Torres record really got me. I’m a big fan of METZ from Toronto. I’ve also been listening to Wax Idols, a real odd sort of indie band. And I’m a big fan of Toro Y Moi. Chaz [Bundick] and I are friends, and he’s such a great student of pop music in the way he filters things through his mind and puts them back out. It’s just so cool. And it’s funny because there’s Chaz and there’s Tame Impala, Kevin [Parker], and it’s weird with their last two records they almost switched places. Toro had a little more of a filter house vibe, then they started to go more psych, while Kevin had more of a psych edge and then he went housier, mixed in with that sort of 70s California boogie cocaine deal. It’s just fun to watch when we all as musicians do these little things.
Do you feel satisfied that the spirit of the 80s punk scene that you came out of with Hüsker lives on today?
I think so. What that scene was like in the 80s – and Michael Azerrad’s book Our Band Could Be Your Life is a great document of that history – so much of that was born out of necessity, because none of us young bands at that time after the first wave of punk had places to play in North America, and we had to invent a touring circuit for ourselves and share that with other bands we thought would appreciate it. The corporate involvement in rock in the early 90s really tried to take advantage of that. But I think there will always be proper punk shows for people to play at. Just out of necessity it’ll always be there. It’s not something you can buy at a punk rock boutique, and it’s not necessarily something that should be curated for you by a streaming service. You actually have to learn something and make shit up and be part of it.
With reunions being such a big deal in music right now, I find it hard to imagine that you haven’t had offers to get Hüsker Dü back together – do you think that will ever happen?
Nah, that band was too important to try and revive it. It meant too much to people and it wouldn’t look the same. And, you know, more importantly, I’ve got the best guys I’ve ever played with in my life in my band right now. And even if that went away I don’t really want to go back and revisit Hüsker. There was an announcement recently about Hüsker T-shirt sales, and everybody got that bit of false hope. But I was like ‘oh man, this is just T-shirts’. If you love that band go and buy some T-shirts. But there’s no reunion, we’re not gonna do that again. Of course The Smiths is another band, everybody pines for that reunion. But look at the principals involved in that band and look at how their lives have changed, and that’s it right there. At the same time with LCD Soundsystem it was barely an album cycle before they got back together, but hey, do what you do. Everybody needs to just do what they do.
Bob Mould Band tours the UK from Sat 6 Feb—Sun 14 Feb.